Acceleration is a cheap and simple way to differentiate for students who are ready for something more. It can mean skipping a whole grade but is more commonly accomplished through subject-specific acceleration. Lots of people have weird arguments against acceleration, but the research shows that it works (when done well).
When we differentiate, we simply offer students opportunities to think at a level appropriate to their ability. In an ideal world, our district-provided materials would come with lessons that scale with students’ abilities, but that’s rarely the case.
So! We can make use of dozens of well-established techniques for differentiating lessons for students of varying abilities. Here are articles detailing many of those techniques, organized into subcategories.
Depth and Complexity Icons
Complexity vs Skill
Differentiate With Classics
Differentiation Gone Wrong
When differentiating, it’s helpful to note where on the “spectrum of abstraction” your content lies. Then, see what happens when you move that content to be more abstract or more specific. It often unlocks lots of new opportunities for thinking.
One of the most significant barriers to differentiating for gifted learners is a misunderstanding of the purpose of grade-level standards. People see grade-level standards as a maximum. The truth is the complete opposite.
I get lots of questions from overwhelmed folks who have suddenly landed in a new job in gifted ed and have had little training. “Where do I even start!?” is a very common cry. Here are three places to begin differentiating for gifted kids.
In a climate where we focus on who’s below-level, how many students are already ready for next year (and beyond)? Research from Johns Hopkins sheds light on the (truly) shocking number of above-level kids out there.
Wondering what to do with your early finishers? This is probably the wrong question!
Are bests the same as favorites? Can your class come up with a suitable definition of the difference?
We’ll use a deductive-style lesson. While inductive thinking is open-ended and student-controlled, deductive thinking is focused on a teacher-designed topic. It makes it easier to teach a specific concept and raise the expectations of a lesson.
Science should be more than memorizing facts. Let’s spice it up and push our students from the doldrums of remembering to the soaring heights of evaluation. While it’s true that this will take longer than just following a textbook, we’re not just teaching facts, we’re equipping students with the ability to make well-informed judgements.
Increasing brain stimulation for gifted kids during lessons means a reduction in behavior problems, an increase in enjoyment, and a more comfortable learning environment.